At last we have made it to Devon. Dartmoor to be precise. It's the furthest south in England that I have ever been, having holidayed as a child either in Italy over the summer and Switzerland or France in the winter. My Dad was an avid skier and a Europhile so there wasn't much time for all the beauty of the British Isles. Having said that, my grandparents lived in Bournemouth part of the year so I did visit Dorset quite a bit which as a kid I absolutely loved. As an adult, I've certainly globetrotted but again to more exotic climes, always escaping the 'dreary' British weather. I know that I've been missing out. We have a stunning country just on our doorsteps. I've done the obligatory Cotswolds, been to Edinburgh but Devon, Cornwall, the Highlands and the Lake District are all on the travel bucket list.
So, at last a reason to visit Devon and that reason is Bovey Castle. I had heard many things about this hotel but first and foremost that it is a truly luxurious, child-friendly destination. And a destination it really is. You can go to Bovey just to visit Bovey Castle. It is a mini-kingdom in itself where stunning scenery and countryside meets stunning architecture and rooms therein. There is also so much to do and see that you need never leave the expansive estate, although if you do, you will be greeted by pretty villages and of course Dartmoor National Park and all that it has to offer with its stunning scenery and 450 miles of public right of way.
The minute you pull through the gates of Bovey Castle, you know that you have arrived somewhere very special. Through a perfectly groomed 18-hole, championship golf course opened in 1930 ( a draw in itself with fully equipped club house, driving range and golf academy, rivalling Gleneagles and Turnberry and meandering through the estate) and then on up the hill to a beautiful baronial granite castle come luxurious sporting lodge. Walking in through the huge entrance you are greeted with fishing rods, rows of wellies for guest's use and a chalkboard with details of which animals have been spotted and where on the estate on which days. A real excitement builder!
There is truly something for everyone here. Lets start with the sports; from archery to clay pigeon shooting, crolf (I've never even heard of it!), falconry, fly fishing, game shooting, deer stalking, gliding horse riding hot air-ballooning, mountain bikes, rock climbing and tennis to name a few!
You may never need to leave the confines of the estate and in fact on a chilly January day when we arrived we didn't even dream of it. We were happy to just wander around the sumptuous, yet cosy and inviting state rooms chatting with Alexander excitedly chatting to Beaky the hotel parrot. We did also decide that afternoon tea was in order-something that Bovey Castle is famed for. In the clubby Oak Bar, in front of a real fire and the almost floor to ceiling windows looking out on to Dartmoor with a mist rolling on the hills we all three sat on deep leather chairs around a table covered by a starched table-cloth atop it scones, sandwiches and homemade cakes and a choice of fine teas served in the finest china cups - a true delight.
I must mention also, that had we wanted to, we could have also enjoyed cocktail-making, cider and sloe gin making or an art masterclass! Instead, now settled into our grand family room, again with the huge windows and to-die-for views, we headed to the swimming pool where I gawped at the view (yes, the windows again!) and Alexander splashed around happily. There is of course a gym and the UK's flagship Sundari Spa which next time, I will definitely find time to pamper myself in. As we had arrived quite late in the day, after a swim, we relaxed in our room.
Now, Bovey is the type of hotel that I love. It's grand, the decor is grand and quite traditional with a lot of luxury castle thrown in for good measure.Our room, a Junior State or Family room was sufficiently large enough for a separate seating area, Alexander's cot and a huge rug left for playing on. And play he did! What really caught my attention with Bovey Castle though was the promise of LEGO Roomservice and I should know better at my age! Imagine what the kids think when they see what's in store. This unique offering is exactly what it sounds like. You get given a menu upon arrival and place your order. Hey presto! It arrives! And they have everything from DUPLO to LEGO for the older ones too. What a brilliant idea! So we relaxed back on our huge bed whilst Alexander marveled at his newly acquired toys (NB you do give them back but that's no problem because the little ones lose interest and are onto the next thing anyway).
Dinner at Bovey can be as formal or as informal as you like. The Castle Bistro for the informal and the Edwardian Grill for something fancier. We went for the more formal. I like to think that Alexander has become accustomed to fine dining (he gets his fair share) and the fact that we were even offered half portions of the adults menu was a great draw as was the cheeseboard with its own cheese waiter and 87 different varieties of cheese - I was in heaven. The dining room again is grand. They are, though, very welcoming to children and dealt with our little one very well despite the fact that he had decided that he wouldn't sit at the table for that particular dinner- you know how it is! Food is good and the menu varied and interesting. We were however there on a quieter day and we did feel a little as though we were rattling around in a very big room! Breakfast was also in the Edwardian Grill, beautiful views out to Dartmoor yet again and a sufficient buffet and cooked breakfast menu- enough to set you up for a day ram-packed with activities.
We had far too little time at Bovey Castle, which can only mean one thing- we liked it enough to stay longer. One day we drove to the nearest village for a mooch in the shops and a Devon Cream tea, taking in the scenery as we went, on the second day we walked in the grounds and found the trampoline where Alexander burnt off some of his extensive toddler energy! If you come during school holidays then you need never see your kids for the wealth of activities that Bovey Castle has for them including Bovey Rangers and the Play Room which accepts them from 3+ .
It's a long way from London but in a good way, it's a world away from the hustle and bustle. I can see how Bovey Castle has something different to offer for each changing season too, which can't be bad for them but then it's great for the guests too. A winner for me!
Photos supplied by Pregnantcitygirl